Baseball shrugs off spring struggles, splits Ivy openers

by Gayne Kalustian | 3/30/15 6:01pm

How does one write a lede for a string of brutal spring interim away games, an Ivy opening day doubleheader against the defending League champions and a pair of games the very next day which were both decided in the final half innings? (Like that, I guess?)The most interesting development from the jam-packed schedule of baseball is the emergence of somewhat dark horse pitcher Jackson Bubala ’17, who had his first start and appearance against the University of Texas at Arlington in Santa Barbara, California, over the spring interim. Bubala, who had yet to toss a single inning for the Green and White since his arrival as a freshman last year, allowed just one run in six innings on the mound and left the game with the Big Green holding a 2-1 lead. Though relief pitcher Chris Burkholder ’17 ultimately blew the lead, Bubala’s six-inning stretch gave him the capital to secure the final open spot in the rotation for the team’s first Ivy weekend.Bubala took the mound against the University of Pennsylvania for Sunday’s second game after the team lost the front end of the doubleheader. In the day game, a two-run seventh inning for the Big Green knotted the score at three before a walk-off single pushed a runner across home for Penn in the bottom of the seventh. Bubala, starting the nine-inning game immediately after the 4-3 loss, threw another six innings and allowed just two runs — a solid showing despite the fact that his opponent, the Quakers’ Mike Reitcheck, went for seven innings and allowed no runs. Bubala’s two outings so far this year, captain Louis Concato ’14 said, are evidence that the soph­omore is being given an opportunity­ — of which he is taking advantage — to keep his name in the mix for the rotation.Reitcheck was pulled before the eighth as Penn attempted to preserve the two-run lead. In the end, the Quakers burned through four bullpen arms while trying to retain control of the game.A late-game rally by the Big Green’s offense — put together by Justin Fowler ’18, Matt MacDowell ’15, Matt Parisi ’15 and Nick Ruppert ’16 — left Dartmouth ahead by two. Though the Quakers scored in the bottom half of the inning, the Big Green eventually secured the victory. Patrick Peterson ’18 took home the win after throwing the final three and surrendering just one run. Head coach Bob Whalen left Peterson on the mound to close out the ninth inning, a developmental nod to the freshman who has so far had four appearances and racked up a 3.21 ERA.Getting the win in game two, MacDowell said, was huge for the team going forward, especially considering the win as a testament to the team’s ability in the final frames.The split doubleheader came after the team’s opening Saturday against Columbia University — ­­the defending Ivy League champions who bested the Big Green last season in the Ivy League Championship Series. Brothers Mike Concato ’17 and Louis Concato ’14 took the starts, with Mike Concato securing the seven-frame victory in game one. Both brothers gave up four runs, though Louis Concato didn’t receive as much run support as his younger brother. In game one, the Big Green scored five runs and in game two the men only pushed across one run, batted in by Adam Gauthier ’16 who has seen a considerable amount of time behind the plate this year.The baseball team jetted off to California for its annual spring break trip, competing against some of college baseball’s best programs. Of the nine games in California, the team won only one at the tail end of the trip against California Polytechnic University. The team was driven by strong performances by starting pitchers Duncan Robinson ’16 and Mike Concato. Robinson allowed one run on seven hits in eight innings of work, while Concato closed out the final inning and put three up and away to clinch the lone win of the journey. Jeff Keller ’14, last season’s co-captain and a California native, attended the games in Santa Barbara and said that though they were lost decisively, they do not predict the team’s ability to succeed in the Ivy League.“It’s hard to read into these things,” Keller said. “Obviously you’d love to go 20-0 but…it’s hard to say you really lost or won those games when they’re throwing their number one pitcher and you might be throwing your number five.”With the grueling spring interim hopefully behind them, Dartmouth’s 2-2 Ivy start ties the team’s best opening weekend start since any of the current players suited up in the Green and White — against last year’s two strongest teams in the League no less. While concern has, for the second season in a row, been hovering around the mound, the emergence of pitchers like Bubala, Peterson, Sam Fichthorn ’18 and — every now and again — Burkholder gives rise to hope that the program will, at the very least, remain dominant in the Red Rolfe Division and, just maybe, keep a bid alive for that elusive Ivy League title.